I was expecting an important call at 10:30 this morning. So the plan was: Drop Asa off at “school” at 8:30, run from 9:00 to 10:15, sit in the car and wait for the 10:30 call, talk happily, finish 20 miles at a good clip, drive home, shower, dress, and leave to pick Asa up by 2:00. Nothing but net. Except when I got back to the car at 10:15 and picked up the phone to make sure the ringer was on, I saw I’d missed a call at 10:13. The call. I called right back and got voicemail.
Now, I’d been looking forward to this call all weekend. (More details to come hopefully.) And missing it by two minutes…well, I was pretty deflated. I was a shriveled balloon in the driver’s seat. And I still had 13 tempo miles to run.
My legs felt stiff and heavy. I felt stiff and heavy. And I drove home. I told myself I’d finish the run in the neighborhood. I pulled into the driveway and sat in the car for a while. I decided I’d take a minute to refill my water bottle inside. Five minutes later I was eating a thick slice of Eliot’s homemade bread smeared with half an avocado. I was deflated, stiff, heavy, and sad. I picked up Dr. George Sheehan’s book, “Running and Being” and flipped to a chapter entitled “Living.” (Asa let me browse through the non-childrens’ books at the library for exactly 20 seconds during our last visit there. He’s a no nonsense library visitor. One heavy equipment DVD and a couple of new Frog and Toad books, and he’s done. In, out, nobody gets hurt. Sheehan’s book was face out on the shelf as Asa rushed me by and I grabbed it.) So, as I stuffed bread into my mouth, coming closer to accepting that my run was over, important race around the corner or not, I read:
There are days when you can’t get the ball in the basket, no matter how hard you try…. But there is no excuse for not playing good defense.
Offense…is a spontaneous, joyful unification of the body and the mind. Therefore there are days when it won’t happen.
Defense needs none of this. Defense is dull, boring, commonplace. It is the unimaginative plodding attention to duty. It is grit and determination and perseverance. It requires simply…an act of the will. There is never a day you can’t play defense. All you need is the decision to put out. To give one hundred percent.
Offense is a showplace for talent and even genius. What defense discloses is character.
I enjoy my play. Enjoy having the ball. But I know that my talent is something I carry. The real test comes when that is absent. When I am filled with fatigue and boredom and the desire to be off on a vacation or a short drunk.
Defense therefore narrows down to character, the ability to persist in the direction of greatest resistance.
– Dr. George Sheehan, Running and Being, 1978
And I headed back out the door. It wasn’t a pretty run (I mentioned the hunk of bread and avocado half) and I certainly didn’t run it at a good clip like I needed to. But it was a beautiful day here today, and there was every reason to be running in the sunshine.
I didn’t shake the deflated feeling, but I chuckled happily a couple of times during the run, and I sang to Asa when I picked him up.
Last week I watched an old interview of Scott Jurek on CNN and he said something to the effect of “Running ultras is 90% mental. And the other 10% is mental too.” That certainly rings true about training for ultras at any rate.
Hope you don’t have to persist against too much resistance yourselves today.